MediaFile

Tech wrap: Verizon feeds hunger for cable spectrum

Verizon Wireless plans to pay $3.6 billion for wireless airwaves from a venture of cable companies Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. Comcast said that the deal represented a 64 percent premium over the $2.2 billion price the cable consortium paid in 2006 for the wireless spectrum being sold to Verizon Wireless.

U.S. Representative Edward Markey asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether software maker Carrier IQ violated millions of mobile phone users’ privacy rights. Carrier IQ makes software that companies including AT&T and Sprint install in mobile devices. It runs in the background, transmitting data that the software maker says its customer companies use to better understand their devices and networks.

Zynga, which plans to go public in two weeks, slashed its value by more than 30 percent to $9 billion, hoping to avoid the fate of other recent Internet IPOs that have disappointed after stock market debuts. Just two weeks ago a filing listed the Facebook game maker’s value, based on a third party assessment, at $14.05 billion. CEO Mark Pincus, a serial entrepreneur before he founded Zynga, will hold a class of shares with 70 times more voting power than the common stock that will be sold in the offering.

RIM booked a huge charge to write down inventories of its underwhelming PlayBook tablet, capping a dismal year with a steep profit warning that sent its shares tumbling. The company said it now no longer expects to meet its full-year earnings forecast, due to weak sales, the PlayBook writedown and a charge related to a damaging service outage in October. RIM’s U.S. traded shares ended the day down almost 10 percent.

Google won approval from U.S. antitrust regulators to buy online advertising company Admeld without any conditions, the Justice Department said.

Tech wrap: “DingleBerry” rings RIM’s security bell

Three hackers said they had exploited a vulnerability in Research In Motion’s PlayBook tablet to gain root access to the device, a claim that could damage the BlackBerry maker’s hard-won reputation for security. The hackers plan to release their data within a week as a tool called DingleBerry. In a response to queries, RIM said it is investigating the claim, and if a jailbreak is confirmed will release a patch to plug the hole. The PlayBook runs on a different operating system than RIM’s current BlackBerry smartphones. However, the QNX system will be incorporated into its smartphones starting next year. The PlayBook in July became the first tablet device to win a security certification approving it for U.S. government use.

Samsung is set to resume selling its Galaxy tablet computer in Australia as early as Friday, after it won a rare legal victory in a long-running global patent war with Apple. An Australian federal court unanimously decided to lift a preliminary injunction, imposed by a lower court, on sales of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 — but granted Apple a stay on lifting the sales ban until Friday afternoon.

Groupon’s shares rose after CEO Andrew Mason emerged from the company’s post-IPO quiet period to share holiday sales numbers. Groupon sold more than 650,000 holiday deals between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, an increase of 500 percent compared with last year, Mason said in a blog post. Groupon closed the trading day up 9.3 percent $17.50.

Tech wrap: Microsoft allowed looks at Yahoo’s books

Microsoft has signed a confidentiality agreement with Yahoo, allowing the software giant to take a closer look at Yahoo’s business, according to a source familiar with the matter. Microsoft joins several private equity firms that are also poring over Yahoo’s books and operations, as they explore various options for striking a deal with the struggling Internet company. Microsoft’s signing of a nondisclosure agreement with Yahoo occurred “recently,” according to the source.

Shares of Groupon fell for a third day , sinking below the company’s initial public offering price of $20 less than three weeks after the daily deal company went public. Groupon raised more than $700 million in an IPO in early November, making it the biggest IPO by a U.S. Internet company since Google raised $1.7 billion in 2004. Analysts have cited concerns about increased competition, a greater availability of the company’s stock for short-selling, and a sharp reversal of market sentiment that is taking down more speculative companies. Groupon shares ended the day down 15.5 percent at $16.96.

Big-Box retailer Best Buy has no regrets about stocking Research In Motion’s PlayBook tablet, despite the product’s poor reception and subsequent sharp discounting. RIM says it has shipped 700,000 PlayBooks since its launch, a figure dwarfed by the millions of iPads Apple sells each quarter. “When a product is less successful, you do what you need to do, and you move to the next thing,” Best Buy’s president for the Americas, Mike Vitelli, told Reuters. “That kind of quick reaction by the suppliers, whether it is BlackBerry or HP with their product, I actually think that is good for consumers too,” Vitelli said.

Tech wrap: Apple misses, Intel beats quarterly expectations

Apple reported a rare miss in quarterly revenue after sales of its flagship iPhone fell well short of Wall Street expectations. The September quarterly report was Apple’s first under new CEO Tim Cook, who took over in August after co-founder Steve Jobs resigned. The company reported a net profit of $6.62 billion, or $7.05 a share. That fell shy of expectations for earnings of $7.39 per share.

One analyst blamed lofty expectations for the miss. “The reality is their business is not an annuity. They have to sell their quarter’s worth of revenue every 90 days. They had a big upgrade cycle with the iPhone, the numbers came in weak. They need to set records every time they report to keep the momentum”, said Colin Gillis at BGC Partners.

Intel forecast quarterly revenue above expectations, defying concerns that the growing popularity of tablets and a shaky economy are eating into demand for personal computers. Intel said revenue in the current quarter would be $14.7 billion, plus or minus $500 million. Analysts on average had expected current-quarter revenue of $14.23 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Intel’s processors are used in 80 percent of the world’s PCs but the company has failed to gain traction in mobile gadgets like Apple’s iPad and Google’s Android smartphones. It also increasingly depends on China and other emerging markets to make up for weak sales in the U.S. and Europe.

Tech wrap: Microsoft’s Office shines, Windows lacks luster

Microsoft reported a greater-than-expected 30 percent increase in fiscal fourth-quarter profit, helped by sales of its Office software, but profit from its core Windows product fell on soft PC sales. Microsoft posted net profit of $5.87 billion, or 69 cents per share, compared with $4.52 billion, or 51 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. That easily beat Wall Street’s average estimate of 58 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

“These are great results given a slower PC environment and it highlights how the company has multiple revenue streams. The $17 billion unearned revenue, which is a forward indicator of business, shows they signed a lot of deals this quarter,” said BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis.

AT&T posted better-than-expected subscriber growth for the second quarter, pushing its profits and sales past Wall Street estimates despite the loss of exclusive U.S. rights to sell the Apple iPhone.

Tech wrap: Spain makes Sony attack arrests

Spanish police arrested three men suspected to be members of the hacker group Anonymous, charging them with organizing cyber attacks against the websites of Sony, Spanish banks BBVA and Bankia, and Italian energy group Enel SpA– but not the recent massive hacking of PlayStation gamers. Anonymous responded by threatening to retaliate for the arrests: “We are Legion, so EXPECT US,” the group said on its official Twitter feed.

EU countries agreed on tougher sanctions against people conducting cyber attacks. Under the new rules, which have to be agreed by the European Parliament, hackers would face a sentence of at least five years if found guilty of causing serious damage to IT systems.

Nokia was expected to report a loss for this quarter and next as it cuts prices to try to prevent more customers defecting to rivals’ smartphones, a Reuters poll found. Analysts also forecast a meager profit in the normally buoyant fourth quarter, as the once-undisputed leader in mobile phones loses the initiative to smartphones like Apple’s iPhone and devices based on Google’s Android software.

Tech wrap: RIM’s Playbook recall

Research in Motion shares neared a two-year low after the BlackBerry maker said it has recalled about 1,000 of its Playbook tablets due to an operating system bug. Most of the devices affected remain in the distribution channel and haven’t yet been sold to customers, the Canadian company said in a statement posted on CrackBerry.com.

RIM said it will replace faulty tablets and prompted customers who had received one to contact the company for help. Engadget, the technology blog that first broke the news over the weekend, has compiled a spreadsheet of the 935 alleged serial numbers affected by the recall.

Sony began restoring access to its PlayStation Network games service over the weekend, nearly a month after it was shut down due to a massive security breach that exposed personal details of 100 million users. The Japanese electronics and entertainment company apologized to customers for the service disruption and said it had implemented a new early warning system that would help prevent similar attacks in the future. Sony will phase in service on a country by country basis with the aim of having the process completed by May 31.

Tech wrap: RIM shares dive ahead of BlackBerry World

RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook is seen in a handout photo. REUTERS/RIM/Handout

Research in Motion shares tanked to their lowest level since October after the BlackBerry maker slashed its sales and earnings forecasts Thursday, an unexpected blow that followed an anemic forecast in late March and last week’s troubled launch of its PlayBook tablet. “We’ve heard for too long about RIM’s great product roadmap. Consumers are not listening nor waiting,” National Bank analysts said in a note. “RIM does not even seem to have dual cameras on its upcoming BlackBerry product line-up. The last time we checked, video is the future.” All hope seems to rest on what the Canadian company pulls out of its labs and onto center stage at BlackBerry World, starting Monday, where the company will unveil a new generation of touchscreen BlackBerrys.

Microsoft shares fell their most in almost two years, a day after reporting a dip in Windows sales. Investors were concerned with lower personal computer sales nagging at Windows, Xbox sales bringing down profit margins and losses in Microsoft’s online business.

Strong demand for smartphones gave a further boost to overall cellphone market volumes in January-March and made Apple a rare winner on the market, research firms said. IDC saw January-March market growth of 20 percent, helped also by strong gains by smaller vendors as the three largest phone makers — Nokia, Samsung and LG — lost market share. Apple’s iPhone sales more than doubled from a year ago, buoyed by strong sales on Verizon Wireless and additional carrier deals elsewhere, with market share rising to 5 percent.

Tech wrap: Q1 earnings beat expectations, RIM’s PlayBook – not so much

A video wall displays Intel's logos at the unveiling of its second generation Intel Core processor family during a news conference at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas January 5, 2011. REUTERS/Rick WilkingIntel forecast quarterly revenues well above Wall Street’s estimates despite a hiccup in sales of its Sandy Bridge processors after the discovery of a chipset design flaw and defying fears the world’s top chip maker is struggling to find its footing as personal computer sales growth wanes.

IBM raised its profit forecast as the tech giant released quarterly earnings ahead of Wall Street projections, citing strong sales of its mainframe computers and brisk business in emerging markets.

Yahoo posted quarterly earnings that topped Wall Street targets amid threats to the No. 1 provider of online display ads in the U.S. from Facebook and continuing pressure from search leader Google.

Low key PlayBook launch day

RIM-PLAYBOOK/

Research In Motion’s much vaunted PlayBook tablet got off to a quiet start in North America on Tuesday.

After leaving an empty Staples midtown Manhattan store at about 7:15 AM, we hit the nearby Office Depot. It had no customers looking for the device.  In fact, it was hard to tell Office Depot was even selling PlayBook at all until a store employee directed us to the basement.

It took  a while to find the PlayBook display among the other office supplies.

Once we found it, the display itself wasn’t very impressive, just a basic promotional sign. In fact, the store said that RIM had yet to send it a demo unit.